North Korean state media warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the western Pacific. U.S. President Donald Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished ally and neighbor, said in a Tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the United States would “solve the problem” with or without Beijing’s help. Tension has escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula amid concerns that reclusive North Korea may soon conduct a sixth nuclear test and after Washington said at the weekend it was diverting the aircraft carrier strike group Carl Vinson toward the Korean peninsula in a show of force.
The candidate favored by China’s Communist leadership was chosen as Hong Kong’s new leader on Sunday, in the first such vote since huge pro-democracy protests erupted over the city’s election system in 2014. A committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites selected Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong government’s former No. Two official, as the financial hub’s chief executive. Lam received 67 percent of the vote and will become Hong Kong’s first female leader and its fourth since British colonial control ended in 1997.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pushed back against the tougher U.S. line on North Korea, reiterating his country’s view that the only way to rein in its reclusive neighbor is through talks. Wang spoke at a briefing in Beijing with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in Seoul on Friday refused to rule out a preemptive strike against Pyongyang if the threat from its weapons program was deemed severe enough.
On the first day of visit of King Salman to Beijing he oversaw the signing of deals potentially worth $65 billion and that for chinese foreign affairs analysts is a “win-win” situation for both countries. The deals consist of 35 projects that include covering productive capacity, trade, space industry, new energy and education. Moreover, as Dr. Degang Sun of the Institute of Shangai International Studies University said, “the two sides’ econmies are supplementary to each other” and this is proved by China’s “One Belt,One Road Initiative” and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which are two strategies compatible to each other. Concerning these strategies, China perceives Saudi Arabia as the principal state in implementing its strategy and Saudi Arabia will enhance the diversification and industrialization of the Saudi economy in the next decade with China’s investments and trade. He also said Saudi Arabia is “looking east” and China is “looking west”.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared an end to the Barack Obama administration’s policy of strategic patience in dealing with North Korea, Friday, vowing to explore all options including harsher sanctions and military action. The U.S. top diplomat also stressed the importance of China’s role in forcing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, urging Beijing to stop taking retaliatory actions against South Korea over the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery here.
The Chinese government has urged all parties in the Korean Peninsula to stay calm and return to dialogue amid a tense atmosphere in the region, Premier Li Keqiang said in Beijing on Wednesday. “A tense atmosphere has escalated recently in the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asia region. Such an atmosphere is likely to lead to conflicts, which will damage all parties in the region”, Li said in a media briefing after the closing ceremony of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress.
Due to a number of limitations the THAAD missile defense system doesn’t directly pose a major risk to Russia and China. However, Moscow and Beijing still see a potential threat, which does not come from the missiles but the system’s radars that would allow U.S. to monitor launches of Russian and Chinese intercontinental missiles. Despite the U.S. and South Korea repeatedly claiming that THAAD poses no threats to China or Russia, and is being deployed to defend the South from North Korean missile launches, Moscow and Beijing still harbor serious concerns about the deployment.
It was only a matter of time, in fact. In 2014 we witnessed the overtaking of China on the United States in the challenge of GDP, two years later a new record confirms the change of paradigm in the global economy and the consolidation of the Asian giant as the new leader.
According to data compiled by Hurun Report, a Chinese publisher specialized in the field of luxury, which annually draws up the list of the super rich of the country, the capital Beijing now has a number of billionaires higher than that claimed by New York. 100 to 95, is the final result, but the measure of change is not given by the five billionaires of difference, rather by the Chinese “rate of growth”. In the last year the exclusive club of billionaires in Beijing has opened its doors to 32 new members, compared with an increase of just 4 elements for the economic and financial Big Apple élite. In third place, the Moscow of old and new riches, with 66 billionaires registered at the luxury registry.
The crisis in Asian markets, in recent weeks, has burned thousands of billions, but it does not seem, therefore, capable to stop the process of concentration of wealth in a few hands, as happens in every authentic capitalist country. “Despite its own slowdown and falling stock markets — says Rupert Hoogewerf, chief researcher and Chairman of Hurun Report – China minted more new billionaires than any other country in the world last year, mainly on the back of new listings”.
Although the match between Beijing and New York appear to be particularly symbolic, China had already achieved similar record nationally, last October, as attested by the Hurun Report. According to the new data, just published, the Asian Dragon now offers accommodation and shelter to 568 billionaires, 90 more than last year. To get an idea, just know that the combined wealth of these 568 McDucks amount to 1400 billion dollars, equal to the Gross Domestic Product of the entire Australia. Of these, 40% have less than forty years, a demographic advantage that may impact on the charts in the coming years. The United States, once again, arrive in second position, with 535 stars and stripes billionaires, two fewer than the previous year. And this is also a fact to think about.
At the level of individual wealth, however, the Chinese captains still don’t occupy the first rows. The richest, in China, is the tycoon Wiang Jianlin, basically unknown outside of national boundaries. Wang is chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, the largest Chinese real estate enterprise, and owns AMC Entertainment Holdings, the largest theater operator in the world. His personal fortune amount to 26 billion, according to Hurun Report, and in the ranking of the wealthiest men on the planet occupies the twenty-first position. Not enough to outclass people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the financier Warren Buffet.
Again, we imagine, it is only a matter of time before Jianglin and handful of his countrymen overtake US celebrities of wealth. The leading group include Jack Ma, founder of the mega-portal of e-commerce Alibaba and the heads of tech giants such as Tencent, Baidu and Xiaomi, which is preparing to invade Western markets with its economic and technologically advanced smartphones. Good Morning China.
To understand what is happening in China we can start from a grotesque news that comes from North America. The Canadian company Vitality Air had recently launched, a bit as a joke, a new product: bottles filled with the crystal clear air of the Rocky Mountains. Within a few days the stocks went sold out and all orders came from China. The country is in fact experiencing in recent weeks a real environmental emergency, because of the very high levels of smog and particulates recorded in major cities.
After the “red alert” declared by the authorities last week, which paralyzed the capital Beijing with the closure of schools, construction sites and public offices, the health of Chinese citizens continue to be threatened. The problem is determined by the huge consumption of coal and other fossil fuels that pushes the economic growth of the Asian giant. The exhaust fumes of cars, despite popular belief, only partially contribute to the formation of smelling clouds that wrap Beijing and other big cities of the most industrialized regions. In fact, the country is experiencing its industrial revolution and the coal, like what happened in Europe in the nineteenth century, is feeding the motor of development. Making the due proportions, the consequences on environmental scale are dramatic and affect the entire planet.
After Beijing, Shanghai also has been enveloped by a thick smog, last Tuesday. In the economic capital of the country the air quality index value reached 300, which is considered “hazardous” to human health with possible long-term repercussions. Not much, compared to the values recorded in the capital and in the northern cities last week, but still enough to encourage the local authorities to declare a “yellow alert” and intervene to limit construction activities and prohibit students to get out of school buildings during the morning, when the smog level are higher.
The difficulties on the environmental front that the country daily faces are even more striking, after the approval of the agreement on the climate conference Cop21 of Paris, which ended last week. Also the Chinese delegation joined the agreement, whose real effectiveness has been questioned by many in recent days, with judgments often far apart. For Chinese representatives, the final document is an acceptable compromise between the needs of the country’s development and the commitments to reduce greenhouse gases in the medium term. Certainly, the delegation headed by Xie Zhenhua pushed for a limitation of the legally binding commitments, but the non-subscription by the most polluting country in the world would have decreed the failure of the summit.
What does the Paris Agreement envisage? In short, the signatories undertake to reach the peak of emissions as soon as possible, then move on to a significant reduction of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century. The common objective, which is considered vital by the experts, is to limit the average increase in global temperatures “well below” the two degrees and focusing, if possible, to the maximum limit of 1.5 C. The progress of the plan will be monitored every five years and, by 2020, $ 100 billion a year will be allocated in favour of developing countries for the implementation of environmental projects. After 2020, the funding is expected to increase to an extent yet to be determined.
According to some observers, the limit of two degrees will be difficult to comply with, but for the first time China and other great polluting countries of the developing world have decided to formally join the common effort. The change of direction, according to Naomi Klein, is also determined by the fact that the living conditions of the Chinese are getting really worse, because of pollution, and that the children of the elites of the country are beginning to directly suffer its effects. It may not be necessary to slow the train of industrial development, but a gradual conversion from coal to other forms of more sustainable energy is already an unavoidable prospect.
And the same might be valid for India.
European Affairs interviewed Ramtanu Maitra (analyst with the US-based Eir magazine. He contributes regularly in three Indian defense quarterlies: Aakrosh, Agni and the Indian Defence Review. He used to write on South Asia in the Asia Times online) to speak about Beijing “will have to move westward in order to bring over land oil and gas from Central Asia and Arabia”. And Xinjiang where Islam that “is surely not a major issue for the Uyghurs”.
For the Uyghurs, do the issues of independence and religion go hand in hand?
“Religion is surely not a major issue for the Uyghurs. They do not seem to be ready to lay down their lives to protect their religion. But when a number of other factors that disturb them come into play against a powerful front, such as the Han-led Beijing, religious identity is displayed. Particularly since adherents of Islam, many of whom are victims of colonial West in the past, have begun to assert themselves in recent years, to display religion on their shirtsleeves is surely considered an effective weapon. Beijing has shown little competence in dealing with the Muslims and does not seem to realize that to dishonor Muslims, even in China where Muslims are a very small minority, it could mean localized trouble that Beijing may have to curb by using state’s authority, which often overlooks compassion and legality. Not allowing the Uyghurs, even to a handful of them who are in the workforce, not to fast during the Ramadan is a policy which could bring together the more assertive Uyghurs and get them in direct contact with more aggressive Muslims who are in the lookout to declare Jihad against any non-Islamic country”.
“I think most Uyghurs are not interested in seeking independence. There could be a few who do so, but majority of the Uyghurs just do not want to get swamped by the Hans. Since Beijing has adopted the policy of developing at least a minimal infrastructure in the western China ( read: Xinjiang) in order to gain an access to Central Asia, South Asia and Southwest Asia, it has brought in , and will be bringing in more in the future, many Hans from east of Xinjiang. These Hans are skilled, better paid and have come to settle down in Xinjiang to raise their families”.
“All these are issues with the Uyghurs, who really want to be left alone. However, that is not going to happen. While many Uyghurs will take it lying down this demographic change, undermining their absolute majority in Xinjiang ( not that different from what happened or what is happening in Tibet) over the years, some will stand up indignantly declaring it as a state policy to obliterate their identity, culture, their way of life and impose upon them the culture to be obedient to the Hans. The latter group of Uyghurs may talk about independence, but they cannot, like the Tibetans, can build up a case to justify their independence from China, a massive power. At the same time, many Uyghurs, who, and whose forefathers, had lived a hard life, welcome the developments that Beijing is bringing into Xinjiang. There is no way the rebellious Uyghurs can bring under one umbrella the entire community on a very abstract cause such as independence from China”.
Has the repopulation of Xinjiang, through the shifting of the Han there in the last 15 years, had a contrary effect with respect to Beijing’s aim to suppress the Uyghurs requests?
“Beijing’s policy to bring in Hans into Xinjiang during the last 15 years is not to undermine the Uyghurs. As I have pointed out earlier, China needs to develop an infrastructure to gain access to its West where seas of oil and gas exists that Beijing could use effectively to sustain and grow its economy. The process has unleashed migration of many Hans to Xinjiang, the Uyghur land, one may call it. The process has also modernized ,and will continue to modernize further, strips of Xinjiang. Uyghurs will draw benefit from all that, but they will also have to come into a daily contact with the Hans, many of whom have little understanding of Islamic do’s and don’t’s, their culture and the isolationist attitude of the Uyghurs. Some Hans may even go as far as trying to prove a phony Han superiority over the Uyghurs. These differences may result in clashes and conflicts from time to time, but there is no reason to believe that over many years, these two ethnic groups will not be able to live side by side”.
“Going back to answering your question, I believe Beijing’s policy is not to suppress the Uyghurs but loaded with non-compassion, Beijing saw no reason to make real social efforts to integrate the Uyghurs with the rest of China. On the other hand, if China wanted to suppress the Uyghurs, why didn’t Beijing bring in the Hans into Xinjiang between 1950 and 2000? They did not bring in the Hans into Xinjiang, because China was not involved then in its newly-adopted Silk Road economic policy”.
Does the fact that over 200 Chinese have gone to combat in Syria since 2012 make China one of the most at-risk countries as regards the Jihadi threat?
“No. This is ridiculous. If thousands of Islamic radicals have not posed a serious threat to 64 million Brits, why 200 radicals would pose any sort of problem to a nation of 1.2 billion? It will not. But what China does not want is being forced to use his hammer to deal with the Uyghurs. China wants a “peaceful rise”, that is its constant refrain. Violent acts to curb the Uyghur uprisings, however small those could be, would be played up by the western media in bold headlines and will be seized upon by the powers-that-be in the West to showcase that China, in essence, is ruthless, intolerant to other religious groups and will readily exercise force when it cannot get its way”.
The passage of the new Silk Road and the presence of oil and gas resources. Is economics the real driver behind Beijing’s anti-Islam policy in Xinjiang?
“A yes-and-no is my answer to that question. China will have to move westward in order to bring over land oil and gas from Central Asia and Arabia. But China will also need to bring in many mineral reserves in order to keep its factories churning out varieties of products. But it is not going to be an one-way road. China, with its very broad and capable production base, will actively seek markets in Central Asia, Southwest Asia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Crimea Europe et al. Already in Kyrgyzstan almost every item that is sold in the market carries the label: “Made in China”. That is the “yes” part of my answer”.
“The “no” part of the answer is that China is not doing this as an anti-Islam policy in Xinjiang. All the countries in China’s west who are expected to provide China an access to their valuable energy sources and many mineral reserves, with the exception of Russia and Georgia, are all Muslim nations. The “Stan” nations, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and the entire Arabia are Islam-dominated nations. Beijing has so far been less than sensitive to the Uyghurs, at least as of now, but it is not foolish. It knows which side of the bread is buttered and who provides and butters it”.